visual poem "graduate school has made me sick"
a collaboration with Shoshana and Sav Schlauderaff
Graduate school has made me sick.
Or perhaps just sicker?
And how can we attend to this?
I am lucky now in that I actually have insurance and am in a better place financially than I have been since I started my B.S. And then what does that say about the realities for ALL students in higher ed?
That we experience food & housing insecurity, lack or insufficient access to medical help, that we work 40+ hours a week, that we can barely make it through our classes without sleeping—how much can our bodymindspirits take?
And that this is all some “right of passage”? Beyond what is framed as “being a student” the realities of our lives outside of the classroom. The reality that most all of my interns and students have experienced sexual, physical, emotional, familial, financial abuse and trauma.
What does it mean to want to care for these students when I still haven’t found a way to guard myself from this pain? Ways to guard myself from flashbacks and re-experiencing my own trauma?
How can we hold space for all this pain in our classrooms? How can we attend to each other while also trying to attend to ourselves? How can we center care, kindness, deep listening, and healing in academia? How can we do the work of making radically accessible & trauma informed classrooms and spaces? How much can we give before there is nothing left? How raw will I become from teaching with raw openness?
Graduate School has made me sick.
And what can we do about this?
About the fact that we are forced to/ taught to desire and strive for actions that make ourselves sicker. We are also complicit in making ourselves unwell. That we want to be productive, we want to be published and attend conferences and be involved on campus and be prepared for class and make our professors proud of our work. We want to be “successful”.
But we all know what comes along with that success, don’t we?
We talk about burnout so much it can’t possibly surprise us when we do—burn out. We talk about the need for self care and community care—we write articles and blog posts and tweets & instagram captions about this, but are you listening? Is your department listening? Is administration listening? Are our health care providers listening?
We must remember that this is also NOT all on us.
There is a duality to what survival means in academia: that it is success and living. Death is always already in the room, in our pasts, in our present realities. Academia is haunted by the continuous past/present/future of suicide—but will it help us now?
I don’t even have the answers for myself here. I am just sick and sad and lonely and unwell and in pain. The only thing I do know is that I am not alone.
Perhaps I have found consolation in that?
We are collectively sick together, have been sick and been made sick.
And what can we do with that?
This project was created for Shoshana’s trans/feminism class at MICA. Additionally, Sav and Shana were looking to collaborate together on work for the Queer Futures Collective and this piece around burnout and the disability creating nature of academia resonated with Shoshana. This work is an attempt at bringing visuals, sounds and feelings to this poem to help the reader/viewer/audience to not only think about this piece but to feel this piece alongside Sav’s reading.
Shoshana is a queer artist and bread baker located in Baltimore. Their work explores empathy of the audience, allowing vulnerability to exist in a controlled moment. Through light, texture, sound, and tactile elements, they engage a sense of familiarity within their imagery. For more information please visit their website at www.shoshanahope.com or their instagram art page @shoshanas_art & if you are in Baltimore their bread business instagram is @ibakebread